A conversation with Fathia Mohidin

Artist Fathia Mohidin (FM) in conversation with curator Annie Jensen (AJ)

AJ: Tell me about your artistic process, what influences you and your work?

FM: My investigations take place in direct and indirect dialogue with poets, musicians, machines, muscles and almost everything that invites new ways of thinking. I continually turn to sport and exercise as a point of departure from which to reflect on the body. I find it fascinating how this field is often trivialised as entertainment for example, despite being just as much a political arena.

AJ: In your installation-based work, you frequently return to the site of the gym. It is an environment that many people can find quite agonising and demanding. What is your view on performance and how does your work relate to it as a concept?

FM: Through my works, I approach “performance” and “the strong body” from different perspectives. I examine what it means to perform and push the boundaries that exist around various bodies. Here I refer, among others, to philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft and her ideas that women cannot have their rights recognised without also having access to physical activities that make them strong and resilient. On an individual and collective level, performance has the potential to be something invigorating and powerful.

In a series of ongoing works, I also examine the relationship between the strong body and demands for productivity andperformance in a capitalist system. For example, companies that build a gym for employees in their office complex or put a clause relating to physical exercise in the employment contract to maintain a high level of performance.

AJ: Your work could be described as a sort of “physical research” that through sport and exercise examines the body’s relationship to social, political and economic structures. What more can you say about these corporeal investigations?

FM: My interest in sport and exercise began during my time at the Royal Institute of Art, when I started seeing the similarities to art in matters such as competition, nation-building and the creation of national identity. As I started to research this field, I became aware of my own body and started exercising regularly to investigate new ways of thinking and working with the body. The time I spent lifting physical weights at the gym made me reflect on the weight we carry in everyday life and what it means in building up a strong body.

While working on Chop Chop Corporal (2020), I started to notice the similarities between the gym and the workplace: how one performs over intervals of time, seeks repetition and goes from station to station as if on a conveyor belt. I began listening to sounds in the gym and making audio recordings while I exercised, as part of the physical research.